In an attempt to corner the BJP-led NDA government, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has asked the Centre to immediately honour its election promise of paying an additional Rs 5 lakh as compensation to the families of those killed in 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
In his April 7 letter to home minister Rajnath Singh, Kejriwal said the Centre had so far not released the funds amounting to Rs 122.95 crore for disbursal among the families of 3,325 people killed in the communal riots that followed the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984.
Of the victims, 2,733 were killed in Delhi alone while rest belonged to Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and other states.
“The 1984 riots victims have been subjected to administrative apathy for more than three decades. It is essential that the commitment made to the victims for additional relief of Rs 5.00 lakh is honoured,” the Delhi chief minister has said in his letter.
The union home minister had made the announcement on October 30 last year on the eve of Indira Gandhi’s death anniversary ahead of the crucial assembly elections in Delhi.
This was the third set of cash compensation announced for the victims so far. The first one of Rs 20,000 each was given soon after the riots while the UPA government announced an enhanced compensation of Rs 3.5 lakh each in 2006.
Kejriwal lamented that the Centre had not released the funds so far despite repeated reminders from the Delhi government. Although the Delhi government had started the disbursal of relief by providing Rs 10 crore from its own budget, he wrote that it has not been able to distribute the relief to most of the victims due to lack of funds from the central government.
However, a union home ministry official said Rajnath Singh had distributed cheques of Rs 5 lakh to the kin of 17 victims on December 26 last year and the remaining disbursal would be carried out after the completion of the verification process.
The issue of anti-Sikh riots has haunted the Congress for decades now with the BJP calling it “genocide”.
Senior Congress leaders, including Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, are facing allegations of involvement in the riots though they have denied any role.
Disillusioned with both the Congress and the BJP, a significant section of the Sikhs in Delhi is said to have supported the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) during the last two assembly elections (December 2013 and later in February 2015) in Delhi and in 2014 Lok Sabha polls as well.
Soon after assuming power in Delhi for the first time in 2013, the Arvind Kejriwal government’s one of the first steps during its 49-day rule was to recommend setting a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
While approving the modalities, the then Kejriwal cabinet had stated that all those cases which were closed or shown untraced would be reopened, reinvestigated and fresh FIRs also filed if the need arose.
Kejriwal had also sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention in implementing the AAP’s decision to ensure justice to the victims.